“He who makes no memory of himself during his lifetime will have none after his death, and will be forgotten with the tolling of the final knell. Therefore, the money that I expend on perpetuating my memory will not be lost.”
—Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519)
On view until January 5th 2020, “The Last Knight” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an extensive look at how Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I amassed and displayed his power. Through various pieces of armor, many true works of art that were used in combat and for jousting tournaments by himself, his son, his grandson and members of his Court, an impressive story is told.
It is possible to spend several hours amid these splendors, thoroughly enjoying them.
Max’s steel gauntlets were made in Augsburg, Germany about 1490. His grandson, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, brought them to Spain when he abdicated and retired to a monastery, where they are part of the collection of the Real Armería at Madrid.
Topping this steel and gold helmet from 1500, known as a sallet, is not a 16th-century manbun but a pomegranate. Max’s son, Philippe le Beau, whose helmet this was, married Juana la Loca, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, who reclaimed the last Moorish stronghold, Granada, Spanish for pomegranate.
Charles V was 12 years old when Grandfather Max ordered this ceremonial suit of armor of steel, copper and gold be made in Innsbruck and Augsburg.
Details of Charles V’s boyhood armor of 1512 show fretwork with the Cross of St. Andrew and emblems of the Order of the Golden Fleece.
Life at Max’s Court was not all blood sport; the Emperor, reportedly quite the twinkle toes on the dance floor, held masquerades following the tournaments. He is shown surveying his Court in this 1512 illustration.
Steel and copper were used to make this sallet in the late 15th century. Viennese craftsmen forged it for Max in one piece; the Emperor used it in the Joust of War.
Made in Innsbruck, Austria, where Max held Court, this 1515 suit of foot combat armor was a gift from the Emperor to Giuliano de’Medici (1453–1478), co-ruler of Florence and a younger brother to Pope Leo X (1475–1521).
Crafted for Max in Augsburg about 1495 this sallet, helmet, and bevor, chin protector, are unique because they combine both pieces that are usually separate.
Pointed, fluted, and embellished, this is the back of the previous helmet.
Max’s 1508, foot-combat armor is made of steel and copper; it is the only complete suit of this type of armor belonging to the Emperor to survive. It was fashioned in Arbois, Burgundy; Max was also Duke of Burgundy, which he came by through marriage to Mary, Duchess of Burgundy (1457–1482).
Made of steel, gold and copper this armor was worn by Gaspare Sanseverino d’Aragona (1455 – 1519), an Italian mercenary military commander, for the Italian Joust of Peace, which he won, at Max’s Court.
Signore Fracasso, the Italian mercenary’s alias, gave his richly detailed armor to his host. Max had been injured in a previous joust, and the visitor competed against the Emperor’s jousting instructor.
Intended for use on the battlefield, this field armor was crafted of steel and copper in Augsburg between 1478 and 1480; the Emperor was 20 years of age when it was made.
Pointed footwear was all the rage among noblemen of 1479; and Max’s field armor, seen immediately above, imitates the style. As Duke of Burgundy, Max won a battle against the French, in which he demonstrated exceptional military leadership.
From the collection of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., this illustrates a foot combat engagement from 1512. As dangerous as the reality must have been, the artistic interpretation is amusing.
Max presented this 71-pound bard, horse armor, to Henry VIII; it had been made in 1505 for himself or his son Philippe le Beau.
Notice the pomegranates, Max’s personal emblem. Made in what is modern-day Brussels, the bard is steel, and would have originally been fully silvered and gilded.
Read other articles of ours about art, in the permanent collection or part of a temporary exhibition, at The Met.
Greek Sculpture at The Met
Safe Haven in the Face of Destruction
Adam, His Fall and Rise
From the Closet of a Countess
What is Black and White and on the Wall?
Tiffany’s Stained Glass “Autumn”
Betrothed Dancers in Stained Glass
“Camp” at The Met
Art, architecture, and history combined with fascinating tales about NYC are the focus of all our guided walking tours. Through the winter our Subway Art Tours fill the calendar. Step aboard for an eye-opening ride through the museum at the core of the Big Apple.
ALL PHOTOS AND TEXT, EXCEPT CREDITED QUOTES, © THE AUTHOR 2019